When it comes to pricing travel
, common complaints from air travelers concern fees charged for checked luggage and changes to tickets after buying. Cruise travelers are often surprised to find out that the advertised price they see is not the total price. Both want more options, flexibility and pricing that fits their needs. Several travel companies are making moves to give them just that.
American Airlines recently rolled out simple three-tier pricing aimed to take the unknown out of the equation, make comparing prices among airlines easier and perhaps adding value.
“This will eliminate the fear about what-ifs,” Rick Elieson, managing director of aa.com
said in a Miami Herald report. He said it will encourage customers to compare airlines by quality and reward those, “like American, that invest so much in its product.”
Now, American Airlines lowest and refundable fare brackets are divided into three options:
Choice fares are the same as how tickets are done now and will be the lowest fare. If someone wants to check a bag, they pay for it. This is the basic fare. This is no doubt the fare to compare with other airlines.
Choice Essential fares add $68 per round trip but include one checked bag, no change fees and early boarding.
Choice Plus fares add $88 per round trip, and include the Choice Essential benefits plus bonus miles for frequent fliers, standby privileges, a free drink and other perks.
Will other airlines follow American? Probably, as disclosure, transparency and a traveler-friendly system of pricing and booking seem to be the direction travel companies are headed.
This year, we saw a new U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) rule that requires airlines to include all taxes and fees in their advertised fares, among other consumer-friendly features. Cruise lines have no such rules and commonly do not include taxes and other fees in advertised pricing.
But in what we believe to be an unprecedented move, Princess Cruises began advertising the total price per person, including port charges, taxes and government fees, in advertising for their Season of Saving sale, running through December 21.
“These cruise fares include government fees and taxes so you can see what each voyage actually costs from the start,” says Princess Cruises on its website. “It makes planning your next vacation easier and saves the surprises for the pleasant ones you’ll discover on your cruise.”
Reaching further, Carnival Cruise Lines added new pricing options this month with what appears to be something for everyone.
Some time ago, Carnival came out with their Early Saver Fare, a restricted fare that was guaranteed to be the lowest price, no matter what. Throughout the life of a booking, if the price went down, the difference went to the buyer in one way or another via the Early Saver Fare’s price protection quality.
Like a discounted airline ticket, the Early Saver Fare came with some restrictions too. Topping the list was that the deposit was non-refundable and any changes incurred a $50 per person, per change administrative fee. It was the best price but not for everyone. A traveler with uncertain travel plans? This was not for them.
So Carnival increased the number of fare codes they offer from four to seven, adding additional fare codes that allow more flexibility, options and the ability to find a better fit for each individual traveler. As booking a cruise is more complicated than booking an airline ticket, more complicated are the Carnival fare codes as well.
Some Carnival fares are available far in advance of sailing. As time grows closer to sailing, other fares with different rules, aimed at those who are entering the booking arena are introduced then fall off as time marches on.
Winning at the new Carnival Cruise Lines fare code system seems to be a lot about timing and determination.
For example, those who need or prefer to book at the last minute might like Carnival’s new Instant Saver Fare, available 30 to 45 days prior to sailing.
Choosing this option, the cruise line requires that full payment is due at the time of booking and is 100% non refundable, among other restrictions. But someone booking further in advance will have a different selection of fare codes to choose from.
Available between five and three months prior to sailing, Carnival’s Super Saver Fare has a non-refundable deposit, no changes can be made for any reason, there is no price protection and the cruise line selects the passengers stateroom on the day of check-in at the pier.
Aimed at travelers who missed out on the Early Saver Fare because they waited too long to book, the Super Saver Fare is offered closer to sailing but with more restrictions.
Significantly new to booking procedures on some fares is that the cruise line (rather than the passenger) selects the cabin at the time of pier check-in. Now we’re into that “determination” comfort level and passengers who need or want to have their stateroom at a certain location on the ship will not like this qualifier. Those prone to suffering from motion discomfort commonly look for a stateroom location closer to the middle of the ship, where the laws of physics say the ride is smoother.
At the end of the day, those booking Carnival Cruise Lines may want to consider travel insurance more seriously in response new restrictions and use the services of a travel agent that works with this system daily to be sure they select the right pricing option.